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HELENA - American Tradition Partnership said Thursday it will appeal the recent Montana Supreme Court decision that reinstated the state's century-old ban on corporate spending for or against political candidates.

Donald Ferguson, executive director of the Washington, D.C., group, issued a statement saying the partnership would appeal the Montana court's "incorrect and contemptuous ruling."

"We, and impartial legal scholars, are confident these unbiased courts will uphold the First Amendment rights of Montanans to speak freely about power-holders.

"To ban political speech based on nothing more than the identity of the speaker is to strike at the very heart of the God-given rights protected by the First Amendment. Those who seek to stop Montanans from associating and speaking freely are themselves the modern equivalent of the Copper Kings, who in their time perverted law and justice to suppress voices of opposition to their policies."

In response, Attorney General Steve Bullock, who successfully argued for the retention of the Montana ban, said it will be his honor to defend the century-old law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Montana's a state where no one is excluded from our elections - even out-of-state corporate executives can participate; they can either directly contribute to a candidate or a committee or they can join with other like-minded people and form a PAC," Bullock said.

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"If they want to spend - or ‘speak' - in our elections, all we require is they use their own money - not that of their stockholders - and they disclose who they are, by listing their address and occupation when they contribute. It'll be my honor to continue to defend this century-old law."

American Tradition Partnership, formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership, challenged the Montana ban shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision. The U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for corporations and labor unions to spend money in political campaigns as part of their free speech rights.

State District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock agreed with Western Tradition Partnership and the two others who challenged the voter-passed 1912 state law and struck down the ban.

Bullock's office appealed Sherlock's decision to the Montana Supreme Court. On Dec. 30, the Montana Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, reversed the lower court and reinstated Montana's ban.

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